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Hunter’s damage control

Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi raced to successive stage wins at the Giro d’Italia yesterday.

The LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini rider outsprinted the field in the 198 kilometre stage between Grado and Valdobbiadene to claim the maglia rosa, in this his first Grand Tour in two years!

Last kilometre escapees Giovanni Visconti (ISD) and local lad Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-NGC) weren’t able to foil the sprinters’ chances; maglia rosa Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) had left the building and Katusha’s Filippo Pozzato, seemingly unawares, ended up handing his faster-finishing compatriot the perfect lead-out on a giant platter fit for Prime Minister Berlusconi, as Petacchi, for the second day running, emerged a decisive winner.

He clocked 4hr 45min 27sec for an average of 41.618kph over the stage.

South African interest centres on Barloworld riders, John-Lee Augustyn and Tour de France veteran Robbie Hunter.

The stage was marred by more than one crash but Augustyn managed to avoid most of the damage to finish 32nd in the stage. Hunter was some way back in 160th (4min 30sec back).

Barloworld’s Previous Tour de France stage winner Mauricio Soler was involved in a crash and ended up 111th.

‘It was chaos again,’ said Hunter. ‘Got stuck in the crash as Soler also went down. I got on the front after crash to go and try to limit losses for Soler!

‘ The first days are crazy! Everybody still thinks they are heroes and every team says the same thing.”Stay in front!” Logistically its impossible with 180 people.

‘But I think Soler will be fine tomorrow. Just a couple of grazes, nothing major. Guess we will find out soon enough!

‘Today (Tuesday) is the first day of the big mountains and we’ll see who the contenders for the Giro really are. No more pretending,hope our boys are good!’

Augustyn is now 30th after the third stage, 1min 25sec behind leader Petacchi with Hunter 163rd 8:57 down.